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Given the clear indication of the recent census, which is different from a poll, that the overwhelming majority of people in this country wish to identify themselves with one or other of the major faiths—including the fact, if my memory serves me right, that roughly 70 per cent identify themselves as Christian—the right reverend Prelate was right to say that this continues to reflect the grammar and the values of the majority of this country. We of course fully recognise the right of a minority of parents who wish to withdraw their children from collective worship to do so.

The issues were fully aired on the first day of Report and I do not want to repeat the arguments put forward then. I fear that I and my colleagues will continue to resist the amendment while continuing to support all that teachers and others are doing to improve collective worship in our schools, recognising that it is not always providing the focus that it should and can do.

Lord Dearing: My Lords, I guess that none of us is going to be persuaded very much by what has been said, so I, too, have an incentive to be brief. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, that I was invited by the Church of England to chair a review of the future of church schools, which caused me to go out and about in the land. One of the schools I went into was in Bradford, where it appeared to me that95 per cent of pupils were Muslim. That did not suggest to me that they were coming to be indoctrinated.

I turned to the Bishop of London on one occasion and raised this question with him because I was aware that Muslim children often went to church schools. He said, “I asked the same question to a leader of the Muslim community, and he said, ‘We look at it like this: there are those who believe in God and those who don’t. You do, and we feel more comfortable in a school where there is this belief than we would otherwise’”. That does not suggest indoctrination. If I remember correctly—and my memory is fallible—in the report of the committee which I chaired, we made

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it explicit that the business was not to convert but to offer young people the experience of what it is to learn and play within the framework of a community that had values and certain beliefs.

Some things about the amendment surprise me. I found no difficulty with proposed Section 4 because parents already have that right. They can withdraw from religious assemblies, but very few do, which suggests that they are not perturbed by them.

Proposed Section 2(1) refers to furthering a pupil’s,

That seems to deny schools that are not voluntary aided the choice of making it an act of worship. Subsection (5) of proposed Section 3 makes it explicit that voluntary-aided schools may do so; the implication is that others cannot. I wonder where that leaves voluntary-controlled faith schools, of which there are very many.

I was surprised that proposed Section 3(8) said that a voluntary-aided school may, on special occasions, use a church in which to worship. Why only on special occasions? There are schools which have a church on site; perhaps the church is the only place with a room big enough to accommodate everyone.

I must not go on about the detail. I just wanted to put differently the main point made by my noble friend Lord Alton. In the faith schools of which I have some knowledge, the business is not to seize minds, it is to open minds.

Baroness Deech: My Lords, I am in favour of the new clause from personal experience. I was a minority child in a faith school. Although when one is older one can see the benefits, at the time it can be very hurtful—indeed, off-putting—not to participate, excluding oneself, or to participate in an occasion when the majority indoctrination is not to one’s taste. One has to remember that children of that age can be quite brusque and unfeeling in their treatment of minorities. While there was no attempt to convert, being forced to participate did not endear the notion of formal religious worship to one. There is another place for those who want that experience, and it is not school. There are some similarities with the debate already held in this House about faith schools having a quota for minorities.

There is much to be said for a secular assembly that brings everyone together. That is a much truer form of multiculturalism, and no one need feel excluded. Adults’ attitude to this is very different from that of children, who were not included in any Gallup poll or census. I hope very much that the House will support the new clause.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I find myself replying twice to the same debate. Although the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, said that he thought my previous reply was perfunctory, I do not think that it was. Perhaps I am too sensitive to criticism of this kind; I have read it and regard it as a perfectly full and adequate reply to the debate. It is not so much, I think, that he found it perfunctory as that he

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disagreed with what I said. He has an absolute right to disagree with what I say. He takes what I would regard as a very extreme view in this debate, which he has set out in support of the views of Professor Richard Dawkins, and it is his right to do so. But those of us who take a different view should not be dismissed for being perfunctory just because he happens to disagree with us.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, the Minister may not know that I was not present on that day for medical reasons. Does he regard the previous occasion as one which some noble Lords referred to as a full debate of the issues? The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, spoke and the Minister spent a small paragraph responding to the amendment. Otherwise, nobody else spoke at all; there was no real debate, except that between the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey.

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Lord Adonis: My Lords, there was a proper debate. The noble Lord takes, I fear, a different view of the matter. As for speaking for only one paragraph, I spent a good part of col. 736 in Hansard discussing the issues relating to the amendment. Since the issue has been raised again, the best thing I can do is go over the same ground. I am glad to say that although I am always open to persuasion, I have not changed my view since last Tuesday.

I deeply respect the position that my noble friends Lady Massey and Lady Turner take in tabling the amendment. They wish to go further than the position we have established. The Government listened to the debates in Committee and have proposed a substantial change in allowing individual students to withdraw themselves from collective worship rather than that being solely the preserve of parents. However, we do not think it right to go further in the way the amendment suggests: abolishing existing collective worship requirements and putting in place a new requirement to take part in an assembly to further pupils’,

with no requirement, as now, for that education to be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.

We believe that assemblies and collective worship are important elements of school life in establishing their ethos and collective character. We believe it right that those under 16 should be required to take part unless their parents specifically wish otherwise. We believe that it is in accordance with the values and traditions of the majority in this country that such collective worship should be of a broadly Christian character, allowing also for the celebration of other faiths as appropriate.

The noble Lord asks for my evidence for that. In the 2001 census, 71.8 per cent of respondents identified themselves as Christian. Those are the facts, although the noble Lord may not like them.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us what the question was?

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Lord Adonis: My Lords, it was to find out people’s self-identification of their religion.

In respect of the broadly Christian character, Section 394 of the Education Act 1996 allows community schools and foundation schools without a religious character to lift the broadly Christian requirement for some or all pupils when the local standing advisory council on religious education judges it appropriate to do so, having received an application from the head teacher. Before making such an application, the head teacher must consult the governing body, which, in turn, may want to seek the views of the parents. That is the position at the moment. Taken in conjunction with the right of parents to withdraw their children from collective worship, we believe this strikes the right balance. The Government do not intend to propose any further changes. Therefore, we oppose the amendment.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, and all who have taken part in the debate. We have had a good and sometimes erudite debate. Thinking for oneself is a good point, which arose thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, a rigorous thinker himself. I am not sure how the noble Lord knows that God still believes in Richard Dawkins, however.

I am sorry that my noble friend feels he cannot go further. I shall continue to pursue this, but not today. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, and I have read some of the same books on delusions and selfish genes, for example. I do not like the idea of beanbags in assemblies, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned.

There is quite a lot of agreement on this issue. Discussion of all religions, not merely Christianity, is important. I do not want to squeeze out the spiritual. Of course school communities should come together, but it need not be limited to collective worship, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said.

As I said, I shall pursue this issue in other ways; it is worthy of further discussion. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 [Education and training to satisfy entitlements]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 105:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 106, 107, 113, 114 and 115. The title given to Clause 72, to which Amendments Nos. 105, 106 and 107 pertain, is:

I had queried its purpose in our discussions in Committee. My amendments would write into the Bill age 25 rather than age 19 as the maximum age at which those over compulsory school age, but not possessing a level 2 or a level 3 qualification, are able to come back into the educational system to gain such qualifications. I have proposed the amendments because, in March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget speech that the age at which

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young people might get free tuition at further education colleges in training courses which led to a level 2 or a level 3 qualification would be raised to 25. The Bill ought to reflect that change.

In Committee, the Minister explained—I have received a further letter from him which sets out the position in greater detail and for which I thank him—that the Bill relates only to the core entitlement set out in new Section 3B, which reflects the core entitlement in Clause 71 to courses in English, maths and science, and to the additional entitlement in new Section 3C to take courses in one of the entitlement areas specified by the Secretary of State. These are the specialised diplomas which are being introduced and are identified in Clause 81.

In his letter to me, the Minister wrote as follows:

The announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March related to a different entitlement. I again quote the Minister’s letter:

We know that because those who have had anything to do with adult education know that funds are being transferred from adult education into meeting the “full-fat”, as we call it, level 2 entitlement and the level 3 entitlement.

In Committee, the Minister described this second set of entitlements as non-statutory entitlements for young people and adults to study, free of tuition charges, on courses leading to a level 2 or a level 3 qualification. I understand the distinction between the statutory entitlements described in Clause 72 and those which are non-statutory. However, the Government seem to be seeking to draw an over-fine distinction between these two sets of entitlements. On the one hand, they are saying that they want to hold open the opportunity for everyone up to the age of 25 to achieve a level 2 or a level 3 qualification; on the other, they are saying, “No, no, not that qualification; this qualification”. The specialised diplomas will be available only up to age 19.

I have one comment and one question for the Minister. The comment relates to the non-statutory

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nature of the up-to-25 entitlement. As far as I can see, it is a question of finance. The letter seems to say that, since provision for all adults cannot be guaranteed, a statutory requirement would not be justified. What, then, is an entitlement? A non-statutory entitlement is one that may be given and may be taken away. Given the known skills shortages in the UK, and the demographic trends which mean that we will have to look to training and retraining older people, surely this short-term approach is inadequate. We need to make sure that the LSC funds these longer-term training facilities just as much as it funds the specialised diploma facilities.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 113, 114 and 115. We raised this issue in Committee and it, too, relates to the age of 25. I have had further correspondence with the Minister on this issue. We raised the amendments on behalf of Skill—the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities—and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Their purpose is to require that local education authorities make provision for transport for disabled students engaged in further education or training up the age of 25. Very often, these students, because of their disablement or learning disability, are behind in their studies and need to go through to 25. As I explained in Committee, we frequently see situations where the local LSC can agree to fund the student’s tuition, but the student cannot make use of that funding because the LEA has no obligation to provide transport after the age of 19, although it is pressed by the Government to provide it up to 21. The Minister explained in his response that the LEAs are obliged to make transport plans which cover all students continuing in education up to 19 and, for disabled students and those with learning disabilities, up to 21, with the DfES recommending that the latter provision be made up to 25. Perhaps I may again read from the Minister’s letter to me:

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We welcome very much these developments. However, the evidence suggests that despite the work of the DfES and the guidance provided, many disabled students over 19 are not being funded by their local education

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authority for their transport costs and have to rely on family or friends if they are to continue participating in education or training. The Minister seems to be looking to the local LSCs to take on a more active role in overseeing these arrangements, but he will know that there is frequently little joined-up thinking between the local LSCs and LEAs. That is why I am bringing this amendment back. Getting something along these lines in the Bill would bring home to LEAs and the local LSCs precisely what their obligations are. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group. The first three are essential if young adult disabled learners are to be entitled to continue their education and the second three, to which I have put my name, would ensure that they can actually get to their courses. Unlike my noble friend Lord Alton’s interpretation of entitlement, we are talking about enabling and actually making possible. I refer to the noble Lord’s remarks on Amendment No. 99.

I am grateful to the Minister for sending me a copy of his letter about transport, which he sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I have no doubt of his commitment to making things work. The noble Baroness read out the passage where he says he hopes the LSC will work more closely with partnerships and will manage to encourage participation and be successful. The Minister went on to say:

It should not have to come to that. We have been here before—and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has cited instances when it was only with the intervention of a Minister that someone has managed to get to their course to pursue it. Skill and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association feel very strongly that further legislation is necessary, despite the welcome guidance in paragraph 12 of the transport support arrangements for students aged 16 to 19 2006-07. I should declare here that I am president of Skill.

We know that there are still problems with this group. Skill has produced some evidence as has the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. The colleges and other providers say that there is a problem. The LSC knows that there is a problem; Through Inclusion to Excellence recognised that there was a major difficulty and recommended that the DfES and other government departments,

The LSC received a 98 per cent positive response from the sector to its consultation on that recommendation.

Another point is that in the main you really hear only of cases in which a problem has been resolved or there has been a struggle and a failure. The young adult disabled learners who have been turned down and are lost by the roadside go unrecorded. So it is possibly the tip of the iceberg. If there is not a real problem, as the Minister suggests that there is not, where is the harm in bringing in legislation? But the Minister is a very listening and thinking Minister and

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I hope for a positive response, as normal. Otherwise I hope that he might agree to, or consider, getting together with the LSC and the directors of children’s services to discuss the problem further and more deeply.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 105, 106 and 107 relate to the entitlements in Clause 72, entitlements which will legally cease if a person has not started the course of study before they reach the age of 19.

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